In a cycling version of the Entente Cordiale, a number of county councils in South West England and Northern France have come together to promote cycle tourism on destinations on both sides of the channel.
While crossing the channel with a bike is already possible between England and France via ferry companies, 17 partners in South West England, Normandy and Brittany have agreed to work together to promote cycling tourism along three specific touring routes that take in part of all the regions.
The councils signed up on the UK side are Cornwall, Dorset and Devon, while Sustrans is also supporting the venture, which goes by the name of the Cycle West project.
The three routes that are being planned should be up and running by 2013. All have been given specific itineraries and names.
The first route, which is called Velodyssee, is 265 miles long and links Ilfracombe in North Devon to Redon in Southern Brittany, on the way visiting Okehampton, Tavistock, Morlaix and Josselin. Velodyssey follows the European Cycle route EV1and is part of a longer 750 mile itinerary along the French Atlantic coast down to the Spanish border.
The Velodyssey route also includes the largest piece of infrastructure specifically designed for the Cycle West project, a 200-metre long Gem Bridge that will be built in Grenofen in Devon.
The other two routes both provide circular itineraries. The “Tour de Manche” is a 600 mile loop between Roscoff, Mont Saint Michel, Cherbourg, Poole, Dorchester, Torbay, Plymouth and back to Roscoff. Those cycling the Tour de Manche will be able to use the two different ferry services (Poole/Cherbourg and Roscoff/Plymouth) to make this a circular route.
Lastly, the shorter “Petit Tour de Manche” is 240 miles long and features a circular route between St Malo, Mont Saint Michel, Cherbourg, Poole, Dorchester, Weymouth, Jersey (which itself has 100 miles of cycle routes) and back to St Malo.
The latter two routes hug the coastline on both sides of the English Channel, and passes though the Jurassic coast in Devon and Dorset.
Funding of £7.6m has been secured from the European Union for the Cycle West Project. Most of this money will be used to freshen up existing cycle routes in both south west England and France, as well as new cycle infrastructure where needed. This includes improving signage and cycle parking facilities.
Both English and French partners believe that Cycle West will bring in extra tourism into their regions from visitors travelling to and from both sides of the channel. This in turn will benefit businesses that are tourism reliant while there will be also business opportunities for cycle hire, accommodation, guided rides and baggage services.
The project, which was initially announced in March 2010, has a website. The site will be used to promote tourist attractions along the routes as well as accommodation, places to dine and bike related businesses.